Thursday, March 31, 2016

What is Your Favorite #EdTech Resource?

I decided to share my current favorites in 6 categories we use to do most of our coaching. If you ask me the same question next week, I might have a completely different set of choices . . . Stay tuned.  (Many of these tools can be applied across multiple categories, so take the labels with a bit of skepticism.)
    • Collaboration: Google Drive 
      (Suite of resources to collaboratively create Documents, Presentations, Drawings, and much more.)
    • Communication: Remind 
      (Remind (formerly Remind101) is a safe, free way for teachers to text message students and keep in touch with parents.)
    • Creativity: Thinglink 
      (Annotate image and video content with notes and rich media links.)
    • Critical Thinking: TEDEd 
      (Build a lesson around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk or YouTube video.)
    • Curiosity: Wonderopolis 
      (Check out a wonder of the day.)
    • Assessment: Formative 
      (Formative runs on any internet connected device and is optimized for an 1:1, BYOD, flipped or blended classroom.)
If you want a few more here is our full resource site built with the help of my PLN: Recharge Learning
Last year we stopped sending out emails with weekly tips and instead asked interested staff to subscribe to this collaborative blog: Teaching and Learning
Recently we've also started sharing a Chrome Extension of the week with staff on our Instructional Tech Page. Bitmoji was quite a hit during finals week. 
What are your favorite instructional technology tools or resources? 
Please share your favorite #EdTech Tool or Resource in the comments below!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why Use Technology in the Classroom?


We live in a world where technology is all around us. It is a blessing to many and a curse for some. The incredible growth of educational technology has flipped many teachers upside down and we often struggle to use technology effectively to enhance learning.  I believe that is easy to use technology in the classroom, but difficult to use it well. The challenge of using technology in the classroom is too often overlooked. 
Too often technology initiatives focus on "If you build it they will come." and not enough on good learning practices enhanced by technology. 

Components of using technology well in the classroom:
  • Students must be engaged in the content.
  • Content alone is not enough. Content should help students build essential skills.
  • Technology should support skills connected collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. 
  • Technology should open doors to more learning.
  • Technology in the classroom should be learner-centered. 
  • Technology should always be used with a purpose connected to specific learning objectives. 
  • Technology cannot be an event. Good teachers seamlessly shift in and out of technology
  • Technology will never replace teachers. Teachers must facilitate the learning, not the technology. 
  • Technology is an enhancement to good lessons. It will not transform a bad lesson into something better. 
  • Technology should open the doors to new questions. Questions are often more important than answers.
I recently put together a presentation that I designed to explain why I am motivated to use technology. What more would you add to help inspire teachers to use technology well?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Study Smarter - Not Harder

Exams may be just around the corner, so here are a few resources to help you organize, prioritize, and prepare for just about any assessment. 

Tips for Studying Smarter, Not Harder
Digital Tools to Support Individual and Collaborative Studying
  • Concept and Vocabulary Review - Quizlet
    Start with flash cards. Students can make their own, or choose from millions of flashcards sets created by others. Students can use several study modes including multiple choice tests and study games.
  • Collaboration - Google+ Communities Students create online study groups in Google+ Communities. Students can create private communities to share resources and have discussions.
  • Organization - Google Keep Create and share notes. Create checklists and reminders.
  • Video Concepts - Khan Academy and Learning Bird Video lessons to support math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more.
Video Resources
Additional Resources


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Focus on the Content to Teach Essential Skills - #EdTech PD

Many educators get excited about the latest and greatest shiny new EdTech tool, but over the years we've discovered that this does not always move teachers forward in their teaching. Many teachers also struggle when a tool they fell in love with either disappeared or was no longer free. Too often the phrase, "Why should we use this if it is gone in a year?" was heard. 

We've begun to steer our Profesional Development away from the tools first. For district required Tech Tools (Gradebooks, LMS, etc.) we do create online tutorials and offer periodic face to face help sessions. 

We plan professional development with the idea that we want to model a student-centered learning environment. Instructional Technology PD focuses on specific teacher and student skills rather than the tools, with these two foundations:
  • We model our PD around learner-centered activities, with this infographic as our foundation: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. We ask teachers to approach PD and planning with 1 or more of these in mind. We design any pd offerings with 1 or more of these in mind.
  • Our second primary goal is to support a shift to learner-centered classrooms where teachers use the 4Cs. We believe that EdTech tools can help a teacher use their course content to help students develop skills connected to Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Here is one of our resources sites connected to this idea: Recharge Learning
In the big picture, the two resources that have given us the most leverage to shift our teaching and learning with EdTech are GAFE and Digital Assessment Tools:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Learning To Be An Instructional Coach

The roles of EdTech Coaches have evolved. The early generations of EdTech Coaches primarily focused on finding and teaching the tools. This was a need since "educational technology" was not integrated into mainstream education. Our early goals and projects focused on finding a tool and showing teachers how to use it. Sometimes, we even took the easier path and did the work for the teachers instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. The questions we most often answered were “how” questions. “Why” questions were rarely part of our conversations.

In the past, effective  pedagogy and best practices were almost always secondary to the shiny new web resources or devices. Many of us put the carriage before the horse and failed to bring real changes to how we teach and learn. A WebQuest, after all, is really little more than a digital worksheet. Using technology to provide students with worksheets on a computer screen is not listed as innovation in any book about educational innovation.

Times are changing. Technology has invaded the classrooms across the country. Even our job titles are changing. The word Technology is missing from these titles. We are becoming Innovation Coordinators and Instructional Coaches.  Our jobs are about instruction, enhanced by technology. Technology is too integrated into many classrooms for our focus to just be on the tools.  Today's instructional coach cannot just be an expert on how to use different tools. We must become experts on instructional practices supported by technology. We now focus on technology to enhance good teaching. Powerful pedagogy now comes first, and the technology tools are added to enhance the learning environment.

In my school, we've tried to model how technology enhances good teaching and learning practices. Pedagogy comes first. Our planning and support focus on these three principles: 
  • First, we focus on the why before the tool. When a teacher is looking to get something done, we first ask about the essential student skills connected to the task. The 4Cs of education (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) take center stage in most of what we do. 
  • Second, we look for tools that can be used for students across content areas. While there are many great subject specific resources, we prefer tools that support students throughout their day. Instead of focusing on tools that only support a specific subject, we instead look first for tools that can support different activities connected to essential skills across the curricula.
  • Finally, we try to always emphasize that technology alone does not have the power make a bad lesson great. Technology at its best only enhances what is already there. Strong teaching and learning practices must be established before the tools are added to the mix. 
As  instructional coaches, we also try to focus on these 5 pillars as we plan support our teachers and students: 
If your staff is still looking for you to teach the tools, or even create something for them using the tools, it is time to flip the switch. Don’t just teach. Instead, learn from the great teachers around you. Maybe even start with a change in your title?

Here are a few resources we use to plan our professional development activities: 

Want to learn more about what we do? 
Contact us: @rechargeedu and @MrsWilsonNV

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Google Maps Tools for Critical Thinking and Creativity

Google Maps is a useful tool for many of us in our day to day lives, but many classrooms don't take advantage of some of the incredible resources that are connected to Google Maps.

Google maps can provide classrooms with some incredible opportunities to create lessons based on creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. 

Here are a few resources connected to Google Maps that classroom teachers will find useful:
  • Geoguessr
    Game using StreetView images that drops the player in a random location and challenges them to work out where they are.
    Create Your Own Geoguessr with Geosettr
  • Smarty Pins
    A fun and interactive game that tests players’ trivia and geography knowledge
  • My Maps
    Create custom maps to share online with Google My Maps We recently used My Maps as part of our Biome Unit.
  • Google Cultural Institute World Wonders
    The World Wonders Project is a valuable resource for students and scholars who can now virtually discover some of the most famous sites on earth.
  • Street View Treks 
    Trek the world with Google Maps. Travel with the team as they collect Street View imagery cultural, historical and geographical wonders.
Here is a bit more information on Google Maps in Education:

How could you incorporate these into your student's learning? What other Google Maps resources do you use?